Mark Jay Meckler (born March 10, 1962) is a right-wing American political operative, attorney, and businessman, who made a fortune in a pyramid-schemed multi-level marketing company before embarking on a career in business-friendly and anti-governmental political campaigning. An early adept of the Tea Party movement, Meckler was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots in 2009 before resigning from the organization in 2012, when the movement started to loose traction, and began to back a range of less visible, yet equally sordid right-wing projects.
In 2012, Meckler founded Citizens for Self-Governance and its Convention of States spin-off, an i.a. Mercer family-funded outfit which has been at the forefront of rallying for amendments to the U.S. constitution in order to make it even more business-friendly, and which as of late has been heavily involved in anti-lockdown protests. In mid-February 2021, the far-right social media platform Parler, in which the Mercers have a big stake as well, announced Meckler as one of the company's interim CEOs,1 a position he held until mid-May 2021.2^
2000s: Early business ventures
In the early 1990s, Meckler moved to Nevada County, California, where in 1993 he and his wife opened a coffeehouse (Cafe Mekka).3 After selling the cafe in the late 1990s, Meckler reportedly started a company that made equipment for the snow-skiing industry. For several years, until 2004, Meckler and his wife also worked as distributors for the scandal-ridden company Herbalife, a pyramid-schemed multi-level marketing company which peddles weight loss shakes and other overpriced dietary products, where both qualified for the "president's team" of top sellers.45
Mark and Patty Meckler with their children in a June 2002 edition of Herbalife's Business Today.
Unique Leads and Unique Lists
Meckler next established a law practice focused on business law, eventually specializing in internet advertising law, and worked as counsel for the closely intertwined companies Unique Leads6 and Unique Lists7, which cashed in on the early internet ad boom and were at the forefront of personal information harvesting. According to an article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones4:
Meckler hasn’t been an Herbalife distributor since 2004, according to the company, but he didn’t stray far. Since at least 2007, he has worked as the general counsel and chief operating officer of UniqueLeads, a Florida-based company owned by Shai Pritz, another member of Herbalife’s president’s team. The company provides marketing and “lead generation” services to companies like Herbalife. Through a network of “affiliates”—usually web publishers, bloggers, or anyone who can put up a website—the company helps place ads across the Internet as a way of generating contact information lists for sales and other pitches. The firm has offered its affiliates the chance to place ads for organic hair growth products, colon cleansers, acai berry weight loss products, various “credit repair” sites, a teeth whitener, work-from-home offers, and even one for a dietary supplement that promises [to] “slow down the aging process” and help you lose weight, too. Pritz also owns UniqueLists, a data management company that sells the contact information harvested through the online ads.
Screenshot of the Unique Lists website as of May 2013.
2007: Opt-In Movement
In 2007, Meckler worked with Opt-In Movement, another Unique Leads/Unique Lists spin-off, "in conjunction with a DC-based GOP consultant David All, to create a list-generation firm that catered to political campaigns," according to aforementioned Mother Jones article.4
A 2010 article by Talking Points Memo reported8:
At some point, it appears, Meckler spun off his involvement with Unique Leads to help develop a new firm, Opt-In Movement, that aimed to build email lists on behalf of political clients. Opt-In’s website — which according to internet records was registered in 2007 — suggests that the firm aspired to work on behalf of Republican candidates and causes. One page shows examples of its work, which includes mock web pages for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid, Rep. Jeff Flake, Freedom’s Watch, and the College Republican National Committee. The site notes that some of these examples were “designed as demonstration pieces to show the broad variety of our in-house abilities.”
There’s no indication on the site itself that Meckler is involved with Opt-In. A contact page lists only the email address email@example.com. But what appears to be an earlier contact page — no longer accessible from the main site, but still online — lists Meckler as the firm’s contact, and provides a phone number that goes to Unique Leads.
Screenshot of the now defunct Opt-In Movement website.
2009: Tea Party Patriots
When the modern-day Tea Party movement (TPM) hit off in 2009, it was far from being a grassroots movement spontaneously emerging from the heart of U.S. society, as was claimed by its leaders, but a project that had finally came to fruition after almost two decades of organization and scheming. The origin of the TPM has been attributed to the Koch brothers, David and Charles G. Koch of Koch Industries, who had become notorious for supporting right-wing causes with their enormous wealth. In 1984, the brothers founded Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a conservative political group whose self-described mission was “to fight for less government, lower taxes, and less regulation,”9 which is considered a crucial precursor to the modern TPM. Congressman Ron Paul was appointed as the first chairman of the organization, who became a prominent Tea Party candidate after its 2009 breakthrough. The CSE lobbied for policies favorable to corporations, particularly tobacco companies.10 In the late 1980s and early 1990s,11 protests on Tax Day started to spring up across the country that referenced the Boston Tea Party as an example, the historic 1773 U.S. mercantile protest against British taxes, the name-giving reference for all Tea Party groups to come, such as the Tax Day Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, and many others.
In 2002, a Tea Party website was designed and published by the CSE (www.usteaparty.com), and stated "our US Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated."12 In 2003, Dick Armey became the chairman of CSE after retiring from Congress.13 In 2004, after a "board room dispute,"14 Citizens for a Sound Economy split into FreedomWorks, for 501c4 advocacy activity, and the newly created Americans for Prosperity Foundation overseen by the Koch brothers, a 501(c)(4), serving as the brothers’ primary political advocacy group. Dick Armey stayed as chairman of FreedomWorks, while David Koch stayed as Chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The two organizations would become key players in the TPM from 2009 onward.15 For example, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks were "probably the leading partners" in the September 2009 Taxpayer March on Washington, also known as the "9/12 Tea Party," according to The Guardian.16 After the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, AFP helped transform the TPM into a political force.
Meckler and his family joined one of the early Tea Party protests in Sacramento, California, that CNBC Business News editor Rick Santelli and others had advertised. That day, on February 27, 2009, approximately 150 people showed up, many of them carrying homemade signs - an element of protest aesthetics that ever since has become a staple in Meckler's rabble-rouser repertoire, in order to further the impression of a grassroots movement from below.17
Soon after, in March 2009, Meckler co-founded the Tea Party Patriots organization along with Rob Neppell, Jenny Beth Martin and Amy Kremer,18 one of the largest groups within the TPM. According to an archived version of Mark Meckler's website19:
Returning home, he began networking with others around the state, and across the nation. Eventually, he was among a small core group who helped to organize the April 15, 2009 Tax Day Tea Parties, which consisted of 850 events, and roughly 1.2 million participants spanning the country. Out of this initial surge of activity, Mark and a core group had the foresight to form Tea Party Patriots to be the go-forward entity for the tea party movement.
As a spokesperson for the Tea Party Patriots, Meckler was often quoted by journalists in articles about the TPM, always ready to emphasize its grassroots and Red-Brown nature. According to a Talking Points Memo article, "even one of Meckler’s many email addresses seems designed to make a point — it begins: “mark.grassroots.”8 He said the movement was "neither left nor right,"20 but consisted of "people of common sense who coalesce around the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets."21
However, although the TPM has done its utmost to give itself the veneer of a cross-front grassroots movement, it was in fact a largely coordinated campaign. The grassroots myth of the TPM served a twofold purpose: 1) by claiming that the TPM was a conglomerate of loose groups that had sprung up among angered citizens across the whole U.S., it should look like a movement that emerged from the middle of society and consisted of independent actors; and 2) to obfuscate the coordinated nature of the key groups that came to lead the movement, such as Meckler's Tea Party Patriots, as well as the ultimate beneficiaries of the endeavor: business interests as well as the (far-)right wing of the Republican Party intent to take over the GOP. Meckler himself had described the value of such a pseudo-grassroots project, as a Mother Jones article reported, which draws a parallel between the TPM and multi-level marketing (MLM), of which Meckler is a specialist4:
There’s a book Mark Meckler likes to recommend to reporters and others seeking insight into the tea party juggernaut. Called The Starfish and the Spider, it explores the “unstoppable power” of decentralized and leaderless organizations. “We’re like the starfish,” Meckler, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said earlier this year. “There is no head, there is no leader of the organization. There are thousands of starfish out there and they are self-replicating in that way.”
It’s certainly an inspiring metaphor. If one tentacle is chopped off, the starfish grows a new one, making it a model of resilience. Yet there’s another type of organization that’s resilient, decentralized, and reminiscent of the Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella organization that claims to represent 15 million activists and 2800 local affiliates. You can find it in companies like Amway, Herbalife, and others that rely on what’s known as multilevel marketing (MLM), a business model some consider to be nothing but a pyramid scheme.
Meckler's Tea Party Patriots were at the time directly affiliated with groups and figures which subsequently became prominent in the insurrectionist MAGA orbit (Amy Kremer, Ali Alexander, Dustin Stockton etc.), to a degree that one may speculate that the TPM was in fact a precursor of the MAGA campaign. The goal, to hijack the GOP from the right, was the same. In the case of the TPM the efforts were supposed to appear as if they had come from without, from an ostensible mass of angered average Joes affiliated with neither Republican nor Democrats; in the case of MAGA, from a movement directly linked to the Republican Party. Both, the TPM and the MAGA campaign also shared key narratives and rallying points: allegedly being anti-establishment movements intent to "draining the swamp." Not what they truly were: establishment vehicles for self-enrichment, curtailing government intervention wherever possible.
A livid example of the Tea Party Patriots' affiliation with future insurrection planners is the American Liberty Alliance (ALA), another Tea Party-affiliated pseudo-grassroots operation that sprung up in late 2009, which advocated limitless free market capitalism. Besides the Tea Party Patriots, it named the Oath Keepers militia, as well as the Leadership Institute as affiliates.
Screenshot from an archived version of the American Liberty Alliance website.
The first archived copy of the ALA website identifies Ali Akbar aka Ali Alexander as responsible for "Operations & Technology,"22 one of the key rabble-rousers and planners in the run-up to the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. ALA oversaw a couple of other web projects, including healthcarehorserace.com, which defamed Obama's healthcare reform,23 as well as taxdayteaparty.com, which claimed to be a grassroots group within the larger Tea Party movement with a particular focus on lower taxes and tax breaks.24 Interestingly, on the taxdayteaparty.com website the contact for Tea Party events was Amy Kremer, with whom both, Alexander as well as Meckler, subsequently became involved with.25
First archived copy of the "About" page of the American Liberty Alliance.
However, the Tea Party Patriot sphere did not get on so well with other "star fish" of the Tea Party movement. In 2010, Meckler became an outspoken critic of the Tea Party Express, another Tea Party group, competing with the Tea Party Patriots for the leading spot in the movement. In weeks of mud-slinging Meckler criticized the Tea Party Express organization for being too closely aligned with the Republican Party.26 His adversaries countered that, quite the opposite, through his affiliation with DC-based GOP consultant David All, Meckler would be a GOP henchman himself, as Mother Jones reported4:
Tea party activists seized on the story as a sign that, far from being the grassroots activist Meckler claimed to be, he was actually an aspiring GOP consultant. Concerns over Meckler’s intentions have also surrounded a $1 million anonymous donation recently received by the [Tea Party] Patriots, which the group is divvying up via grants to its local affiliates. The grant criteria placed a high value on applications from groups that got a lot of members to register on the national TPP site, which meant turning over significant personal information.
In turn, Meckler condemned radio personality Mark Williams, then chairman of the Tea Party Express, as "vile" and "racist" after Williams made blog posts about the NAACP that were criticized as racially insensitive.27^
2011: Arrest for gun possession
Mark Meckler with gun and DFNDR t-shirt.
On December 15, 2011, Meckler was arrested at New York's LaGuardia Airport and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a felony under the gun laws in New York. While checking baggage for a flight to Detroit, Meckler presented a Delta Air Lines agent with a locked case containing ammunition and an unloaded Glock 27 pistol. Meckler was allegedly unaware that his gun license in California was not valid in New York, which has strict gun laws. Meckler was released following arraignment. A spokesman for the Port Authority Police said Meckler "had a misunderstanding of the law. He had a permit to carry in California."28 He subsequently plead guilty to an infraction of disorderly conduct, in order to avoid trial on charges which carried up to a 15-year prison sentence.29 He was sentenced to a $250 fine, and the pistol was destroyed.30 The case has promptly elevated Meckler to a poster boy of pro-gun activists, who, after the incident, said he believed his constitutional rights had been violated, according to an article by Mother Jones31:
Gun activists persuaded the House in November  to pass a law that would require states like New York to recognize concealed-carry weapons permits issued by other states. A similar version will be taken up in the Senate this year , making Meckler’s timing impeccable. Gun activists have pointed to his arrest as an example of why such a law is needed to protect honest citizens from ridiculous arrests for possessing a gun that’s legal in their home states.
In February 2012 Meckler and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin co-authored a book, Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution.32 Shortly after the book was published, Meckler resigned from the Tea Party Patriots, citing differences with Martin and other board members over how the organization was being managed.33
Subsequently Meckler came up with deflecting statements about his sudden drop-out by alleging that the Tea Party Patriots had become too affiliated with the Republican Party, an allegation he has been charged with himself in the past. On The Dylan Ratigan Show, Meckler said, "The organization had been doing things that associated it with the Republican party. I'm not a Republican, and a large number of people in the Tea Party movement—40%—aren’t Republicans. So when they sponsored the Southern Republican Leadership Conference to the tune of $250,000, really it was kind of the final blow for me."20
Whatever the true reasons for Meckler's sudden departure from the TPM may have been, one may speculate that he was looking for more lucrative and long-lasting opportunities than the TPM could offer, especially considering that soon after the movement lost traction anyway.^
Campaign for Primary Accountability
In April 2012, Meckler became an adviser to the Campaign for Primary Accountability,34 a SuperPAC founded by Leo Linbeck III and Eric O'Keefe, with the declared goal to defeat established centrist incumbents of the Republican Party as well as key adversaries in the Democratic Party, in the overall effort of hijacking the GOP from the Right.
Panel talk with Mark Meckler (center right) and Eric O'Keefe (center left) in October 2012.
According to a New York Times article35:
“It is hard to raise the money you need to challenge an incumbent,” said Curtis Ellis, a spokesman for the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the new Houston political action committee that is taking aim at incumbents in districts where one party has the definitive advantage. “This is why we are using this new tool given to us by the Supreme Court to equalize the playing field for challengers.” ...
While Ms. Schmidt [Republican Jean Schmidt of Ohio who had lost the race for a seat in Congress] was outspending her opponent, the group spent about $200,000 against her. Its efforts included direct mail appeals, radio advertising, phone banks and a Web video criticizing her for voting to raise the debt limit. ....
The group has also jumped into House primaries in Alabama. It is running tough ads questioning the ethics of Representative Spencer Bachus, a senior Republican from the state, and has spent $21,000 to try to defeat Representative Jo Bonner, another Republican, in the primary next Tuesday.
The super PAC, which has spent nearly $500,000 of the $1.8 million it has raised this cycle, has also supported opponents of Democrats like Representatives Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Silvestre Reyes of Texas. It got behind Mr. Kucinich, the liberal Democrat, in a redrawn district, but Representative Marcy Kaptur still beat him, 56 percent to 40 percent.
For Republicans, a year of tough votes in Congress has left some Tea Party-backed challengers to conclude that they have an opening to run to the right of even very conservative members, raising the prospect of a House in which the majority next year is narrower but the membership even more ideologically divided. Members say there is little they can do to stop the onslaught of third-party activity.
Citizens for Self-Governance
Logo of Citizens for Self-Governance
In 2012, Meckler co-founded the right-wing nonprofit organization Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG), now called the Convention of States Foundation, together "with the Koch-connected Eric O’Keefe," according to Alex Kotch in Exposed by CMD.36 A sympathizing platform described CSG's goal as "broadening the philosophical reach of the idea of 'self-governance' outside of the Tea Party movement"37: a very florid description of the CSG's anti-governmental efforts. The group is focused on lowering taxes, reducing the federal government's authority over states, and imposing term limits on federal officials.38 According to Alex Kotch36:
CSG pulled in more than $12 million of dollars from donor-advised fund sponsor Vanguard Charitable, the Greater Houston Community Foundation, and Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2018. It also got $950,000 from the Judicial Education Project, a legal nonprofit closely tied to the conservative Federalist Society and its co-chairman, Leonard Leo, in 2016, and $500,000 from the family foundation of Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert, in 2014. CSG Action, a sister group of CSG, has received over $2 million from two groups associated with Leo.
As of 2017 CSG had "a database of 2 million conservative activists," according to The Hill.39
Through his work with CSG, Meckler has helped to file a class action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), alleging violations under the Privacy Act as well as violations of constitutional rights guaranteeing free expression and equal protection under the law. The class action was constructed around the allegation that the IRS had singled out conservative groups when pushing for more scrutiny regarding applications for a tax-exempt status.40 In March 2016, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was unanimously rebuking the IRS, and giving the agency two weeks to produce the names of organizations it had singled out.41 In October 2017, the IRS settled with the Tea Party groups involved in the class action for $3.5 million in damages. In August 2018, Judge Michael R. Barrett approved the settlement, and the IRS subsequently expressed its "sincere apology" for the alleged framing.42^
2013: Convention of States (Action)
Meckler has also been engaged in an ongoing effort to alter the U.S. constitution by calling a large-scale "Convention of States," the name of a CSG spin-off founded in 2013.43 Taking recourse to Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which is allowing for amendments to the latter, CSG "for the purpose of stopping the runaway power of the federal government," is seeking "to urge and empower state legislators to call a convention of states."44 Besides Meckler, Michael Farris was a co-founder of the Convention of States (COS) project.45 Farris has served as CSG "senior fellow for constitutional studies," and is a member of CSG's legal board of reference.46
From left to right: Mark Levin, Mark Meckler and Michael Farris in May 2016.
In December 2013, nearly 100 legislators from 32 states met at Mount Vernon to talk about how to call a convention of states. According to Slate, "The meeting lasted four hours, ending when legislators agreed to meet again in the spring of 2014. That’s the most progress anyone’s made in decades toward a states-first constitutional amendment campaign."47
In February 2014, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced that after his retirement from Congress, he would focus on promoting the Convention of States to state legislatures.48 A meeting was convened in September 2014 to form a “Legal Board of Reference,” "including former members of the Reagan administration, seasoned Supreme Court litigators, and Ivy League professors," who came up with a so-called "Jefferson Statement." This “Legal Board of Reference” as of 2021 comprises46:
- Randy E. Barnett is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he directs the Georgetown Center for the Constitution and teaches constitutional law and contracts.
- Charles J. Cooper is a founding member and chairman of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC. Named by The National Law Journal as one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington, he has over 35 years of legal experience in government and private practice, with several appearances before the United States Supreme Court and scores of other successful cases on both the trial and appellate levels.
- Dr. John C. Eastman is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law, and also served as the School's Dean from June 2007 to January 2010, when he stepped down to pursue a bid for California Attorney General. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute.
- Michael Farris, head of the Convention of States Project, is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He was the founding president of both organizations. During his career as a constitutional appellate litigator, he has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of thirteen states.
- Robert P. George holds Princeton's celebrated McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is the founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology, of which he continues to be a corresponding member.
- C. Boyden Gray is the founding partner of Boyden Gray & Associates, in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding his law firm, Ambassador Gray served our nation in various capacities both domestic and abroad.
- Mark Levin is one of America's preeminent conservative commentators and constitutional lawyers. Mark is the author of several New York Times bestselling books including Men in Black (2007), Liberty and Tyranny (2010), Ameritopia (2012) and The Liberty Amendments (2013). Additionally, he is one of America's preeminent conservative commentators and Constitutional lawyers.
- Andrew McCarthy is a bestselling author, a Senior Fellow at National Review Institute, and a contributing editor at National Review. A well-known commentator on legal, national-security, and political affairs, he also writes regularly for PJMedia and The New Criterion.
- Mark Meckler is President of Citizens for Self-Governance, the parent organization of the Convention of States Project. Meckler is one of the nation’s most effective grassroots activists. After he co-founded and served as the National Coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, he founded Citizens for Self-Governance in 2012 to bring the concept of "self-governance" back to American government. This grassroots initiative expands and supports the ever-growing, bipartisan self-governance movement.
The list of people who endorse the CSG is worth citing in full, a who is who of U.S. right-wing hardliners46:
Mark Levin, Governor Ron DeSantis, Mark Meadows, Sean Hannity, Governor Greg Abbott, Sarah Palin, Ben Shapiro, Dr. James Dobson, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Jim Demint, Governor Mike Huckabee, Pete Hegseth, Ben Carson, Governor Bobby Jindal, Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, Steve Hilton, Charlie Kirk, James O'Keefe, Rep Jeff Duncan, Senator Ben Sasse, Pete Coors, David Barton, Lawrence Jones, Lt Col. Bill Cowan, USMC (Ret), Steve Deace, Governor Jeb Bush, Senator Jim Talent, Michael Farris, Lawrence Reed, David Horowitz, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Ken Cuccinelli, Morton Blackwell, Eric Metaxas, Rep. Ralph Norman, and Rep. William Timmons.
In December 2015, Marco Rubio endorsed CSG's efforts to a call for an Article V Convention,49 leading Meckler to state that the CSG had managed to "enter the mainstream of presidential politics."50 In January 2016, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for a Convention of States to restrict the power of the federal government. In June 2017, former U.S. Senator and former Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint announced his role as a senior adviser for the Convention of States project.38 CSG legal board member as well as close associate of Meckler, Mark Levin, a right-wing lawyer, author, and radio personality, gave the project publicity as host of the show Life, Liberty and Levine on the right-wing echo chamber Fox News.47 Levin's involvement in right-wing politics go back to his work for the Reagan administration, and his position as chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese.
From left to right: Mark Levin, Mark Meckler and former Senator Tom Coburn.
In September 2016, CSG held a "simulated" convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution in Williamsburg, Virginia.51 The simulated convention passed amendments relating to six topics, including requiring the states to approve any increase in the national debt, imposing term limits, restricting the scope of the Commerce Clause, limiting the power of federal regulations, requiring a supermajority to impose federal taxes and repealing the 16th Amendment, which legalized the federal income tax, and giving the states the power to abrogate any federal law, regulation, or executive order.52
A write-up of the event appeared in the reactionary stronghold National Review, co-authored by Jenna Ellis and CSG co-founder Michael Farris. The at the time 21 year-old Jenna Ellis would eventually come to prominence when in November 2020 Trump announced that Ellis would be part of the legal team conducting efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.53 At the time of the CSG endorsement, Ellis had just finished a self-published book,The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution: A Guide for Christians to Understand America's Constitutional Crisis, in which she argued that the U.S. Constitution of the only be interpreted according to the bible.54
Panelists at a July 2018 Dobson Policy Center event. From left to right: Michael Farris of ADF International, Michael Donnelly of HSLDA, Jenna Ellis and Dr. Tim Clinton of Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, Tony Perkins of FRC and United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Mark Meckler speaking at an ALEC event in late 2015.
In late 2015, Meckler appeared as a speaker on an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) event, a right-wing supergroup backed by corporate interest that has been pushing for nationally coordinated efforts to change the legislation across the U.S. towards reducing personal and corporate taxes, impeding the access to voting for underprivileged segments of society, hardline solutions against immigration, loosening environmental regulations, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control.^
Senate Reform Fund
On June 29, 2018, a Senate Reform Fund was registered with the Federal Election Commission. The statement of organization was signed by Mark Meckler, treasurer of the new super PAC.55 According to the TexasMonthly, the super PAC was a project of "Midland oilman Tim Dunn," practically the sole contributor to the PAC56:
Other than a guy from Whitefish, Montana—who donated $300—Dunn is the sole source of money for a super PAC called Senate Reform Fund. Dunn contributed $2.2 million to the super PAC, which is working to defeat U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Montana. Running the Senate Reform PAC is Mark Meckler, the founder of the Tea Party Patriots in Georgia. Meckler now heads Dunn’s Convention of States, a project dedicated to rewriting parts of the U.S. Constitution.
Dunn’s Senate Reform PAC transferred $290,000 to the libertarian, anti-tax group Club for Growth, and so far has spent $1.1 million on radio, television, and digital advertising against Tester.
Back when the Senate Reform Fund was formed in July, the Montana Democratic Party blasted it for gaming the Federal Election Commission filing deadlines so no one would know where the money was coming from to help Republican Matt Rosendale defeat Tester.
The Senate Reform Fund was active for only 13 months, when it was terminated on July 30, 2019.57
In September 2018, Meckler appeared in a conversation with the evangelical Christian media personality and founder of the ultra-reactionary anti-choice and anti-LGBTIQ hate group and lobby organization, Family Research Council (FRC), James Dobson, to "discuss how a Convention of States can remove Washington bureaucrats from American homes and ensure that families have the freedom to raise their children without federal interference."58
The FRC was co-founded by Erik Prince's father Edgar Prince (1931-1995),59 together with the evangelical Christian leader James Dobson in 1983, where young Erik subsequently became an intern.60 The Family Research Council is currently headed by the ordained Southern Baptist pastor Tony Perkins, who is closely affiliated with former US Vice President Mike Pence, and had previously led the "plutotheocratic" supergroup Council for National Policy.61 As of late, the FRC has been involved in a large-scale effort to map the entire U.S. electorate, including psychometric data. [See article on United in Purpose]
James Dobson (left) and Mark Meckler (right).
Membership lists of the Council for National Policy from 2019 and 2020 show that Meckler has been a "Gold Circle Member," so is his former Tea Party Patriot colleague Jenny Beth Martin.
Screenshot of the "Gold Circle Members" listed in the September 2020 membership directory of the Council for National Policy.
In late December 2019, Meckler appeared on Fox News, "Breaking down the top religion stories of 2019,"62 in which the anchor introduces the Convention of States an organization doing "great work." Meckler underpinned all of the Fox-conform talking points: the conversion of Kanye West, which the anchor calls a "monumental shift for christendom"; the success of mega churches in Hollywood; Christians at the forefront of the protests in Hong Kong; denouncing Christian initiatives which are supporting the LGBTIQ community; and finally accusing unnamed democrats of being anti-Semitic.
Endorsement of Allen West
Mark Meckler endorsing Allen West for Chair of Texas Republican Party
In March 2020, Meckler was endorsing Allen West, who became Chairman of the Texas Republican Party in July of that year. West, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has been spending his retirement years i.a. in the lucrative private defense sector. West, a reactionary hardliner who, as a black person, is an outspoken adversary of Black Lives Matter, has reportedly participated in a protest against lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.63
From left to right: Mark Meckler, Gerard Gibert and Allen West in February 2019.
According to Caroline Orr in the Byline Times, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Meckler's Convention of States was heavily involved in anti-lockdown protests64:
Behind the scenes, the radical right-wing Convention of States — another group that grew out of the Tea Party movement and is currently led by Mark Meckler ... propped up smaller, local organisations and provided materials (like signs) for anti-lockdown protests.
The conservative group, which has received funding from the Mercer family and the dark money conduit DonorsTrust, bought dozens of URLs for sites that were later used for protests in key states, including opencalifornianow.com, openfloridanow.com, and openarizonanow.com.
The Convention of States also launched a ‘sock-puppet’ organisation and website called Open The States, seemingly in an effort to conceal its role in the anti-lockdown campaign. The website linked to Facebook groups around the country that were involved in organising protests targeting states with Democratic governors, some of which had hundreds of thousands of members. The group also reportedly purchased Facebook adverts and quietly helped boost the profiles of smaller protests, but did so through sock-puppets.
Using social media and access to friendly media platforms, the Convention of States, along with other deep-pocketed conservative groups, spread inflammatory content aimed at evoking anger towards scientists and public health officials, as well as stoking fear of an imminent loss of freedom and liberty.
“We are witnessing a large-scale exercise in social manipulation, led by Convention of States, a Republican operation funded by the billionaire Robert Mercer, with support from the far-right groups FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, and others,” says Boston University professor Jeremy Menchik, a comparative studies scholar who researches anti-democratic movements.
Menchik says the protests don’t reflect actual grassroots opinion, but rather “manufactured outrage, ginned up by right-wing interest groups.”
“The evidence of the top-down nature of the protests is their coordination, timing, messaging, and overt links. Their group names are similar. The content is similar. Their history is similar. Their calls to action are similar,” he said. “It’s once you see the coordination at a macro level that you recognise this is not a grassroots movement. This is being orchestrated by political operatives…”
Event ad for a "Free Texas" anti-lockdown protest, featuring i.a. Mark Meckler, on October 10, 2020.
Following the election victory of Joe Biden in November 2020, the Tea Party Patriots joined the Stop The Steal coalition,36 an entity originally established by Roger Stone in 2016,65 to contest the election results and to spread the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Although one may argue that Meckler was no longer publicly affiliated with the Tea Party Patriots, one may presume that he kept in touch with at least some of its members. Furthermore, several of those who publicly endorsed the Convention of States have been identified as actors in the failed January 6 coup. According to Alex Kotch36:
COS touts endorsements from a long list of extremists, including commentators Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro; Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, whose group helped plan the Jan. 6 rally; Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe; anti-immigrant hate figure David Horowitz; Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican member of the House Freedom Caucus who allegedly worked with activist Ali Alexander to plan the Jan. 6 events; and right-wing Christian radio host Eric Metaxas, who told Kirk in December, “We need to fight to the death, to the last drop of blood, because it’s worth it.”
In a video from early December 2020 entitled
In the end of January 2021 Meckler assumed the post of interim CEO at Parler, a Twitter imitation popular among MAGA supporters and the far right, which was co-founded and funded by the billionaire heiress Rebekah Mercer.67 In the wake of the January 6, 2021, insurrection, Apple, Google, and Amazon had suspended Parler from their service. On January 29, 2021, the "Parler board controlled by Rebekah Mercer" had fired the previous CEO and Parler founder John Matze,1 who was replaced by an interim executive committee consisting of Meckler and Matthew Richardson. Richardson, a British national, was formerly "party secretary of the populist right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP),"68 as well as former senior aide to then leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, one of the key figures in the Brexit-con.69
According to Alex Kotch in Exposed by CMD36:
Richardson has reportedly been a lawyer for Robert Mercer, the billionaire father of Rebekah Mercer, and was close with Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the Mercer-funded far-right media outlet, Breitbart News. The Guardian reported that Breitbart and Ukip collaborated and had “unusual arrangements” in 2016 on a pro-Brexit campaign. ...
In 2015, Richardson said bigots “deserve representation” and called his country’s National Health Service “the Reichstag bunker of socialism.” He was photographed with former Ukip Chairman Nigel Farage exiting the golden elevator in Trump Tower in 2017.
Matthew Richardson (left) and Nigel Farage (right) in January 2015.
Matt Richardson and Nigel Farage exiting Donald Trump's Golden Lift in 2017.
According to a Bloomberg article citing internal recordings from a Parler meeting, Meckler outlined the tasks ahead in very belligerent terms to the employees70:
“Love it or not, you’re warriors,” interim Chief Executive Officer Mark Meckler said in a meeting on Feb. 8. “This is a war, and you’re in the war, and we’re all going to link arms.”
In May 2021 Parler announced that Meckler would be replaced by George Farmer as CEO. According to The Wall Street Journal2:
Parler LLC on Monday named prominent U.K. conservative George Farmer as its new chief executive and said that its social network has returned to Apple Inc.’s App Store, the company’s latest steps to rebuild its business months after the U.S. Capitol riot.
Mr. Farmer is succeeding interim chief Mark Meckler, who is leaving the company. Mr. Farmer joined Parler in March as operating chief and previously worked in financial services for a decade, the company said.
He is married to Candace Owens, a conservative author and commentator known for being a loyal supporter of former President Donald Trump. In 2019, Mr. Farmer was an active financial supporter and candidate for the U.K.’s Brexit Party, according to Parler.
From left to right: George Farmer, Donald Trump and Candace Owens (undated).
In June 2021 Caroline Orr reported that the Convention of States website is featured as an affiliate on the website of the American Phoenix Project, an anti-lockdown group run by Alan Hostetter, who, together with other members of the Three Percenters militia, was indicted in June 2021 for charges including conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding64:
Sure enough, the American Phoenix Project resembles countless other anti-lockdown groups, with a strong emphasis on liberty and small government, and common propaganda themes such as calling masks on children “child abuse,” fear-mongering about antifa and Black Lives Matter, warning that masks and lockdowns are the first step towards tyranny, and attacking local and national Democratic politicians.
Beyond those similarities, there’s a pretty big clue right on the website of the American Phoenix Project, which directly links to the Mercer-funded Convention of States. The website also includes verbatim snippets of text from the Convention of States’ website.
- 1. a. b. Elizabeth Culliford and Katie Paul, "Parler CEO John Matze says he was fired by board," Reuters, February 4, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-parler-ceo-idUSKBN2A33B0.
- 2. a. b. Sarah E. Needleman, "Parler Names George Farmer as CEO as It Returns to Apple’s App Store," The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/parler-names-george-farmer-as-ceo-as-it-returns-to-apples-app-store-11621268630.
- 3. Liz Kellar, "Local lawyer emerges as face of Tea Party movement," The Union, February 27, 2010, https://www.theunion.com/news/local-news/local-lawyer-emerges-as-face-of-tea-party-movement/. Archived copy: https://archive.is/gfXfP.
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- 13. "Dick Armey to lead Citizens for a Sound Economy," Freedom Works, January 8, 2003, https://web.archive.org/web/20090308214530/http://www.freedomworks.org/press-releases/dick-armey-to-lead-citizens-for-a-sound-economy.
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- 17. Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2012), pp. 4–11, https://archive.org/details/isbn_9780805094374/.
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- 27. Kyle Magin, "Meckler: No place for racism in Tea Party," The Union, July 23, 2010, https://www.theunion.com/news/local-news/meckler-no-place-for-racism-in-tea-party/.
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- 29. Benjy Sarlin, "Tea Party Leader Mark Meckler Arrested With Handgun At Airport," Talking Points Memo, December 15, 2011, https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/tea-party-leader-mark-meckler-arrested-with-handgun-at-airport.
- 30. Matthew Renda, "Meckler cops to disorderly conduct in connection to gun charges," The Union, January 12, 2012, https://www.theunion.com/news/meckler-cops-to-disorderly-conduct-in-connection-to-gun-charges/. Archived copy: https://archive.is/NUqK8.
- 31. Stephanie Mencimer, "Go Ahead, Make Mark Meckler’s Day," Mother Jones, January 13, 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/mark-meckler-tea-party-gun-reciprocity/.
- 32. Matthew Renda, "Mecker co-authors 'Tea Party Patriots' book," The Union, February 16, 2012, https://www.theunion.com/news/local-news/mecker-co-authors-tea-party-patriots-book/. Archived copy: https://archive.is/PaRYK.
- 33. "Meckler resigns from national Tea Party Patriots," The Union, February 24, 2012, https://www.theunion.com/news/meckler-resigns-from-national-tea-party-patriots/. Archived copy: https://archive.is/F5DWR.
- 34. Matthew Renda, "Meckler joins new organization," The Union, April 15, 2012, https://www.theunion.com/news/local-news/meckler-joins-new-organization/. Archived copy: https://archive.is/1DhaS.
- 35. Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman, "‘Super PAC’ Increasing Congress’s Sense of Insecurity," The New York Times, March 8, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/08/us/politics/anti-incumbent-super-pac-adds-to-congresss-insecurity.html?_r=0.
- 36. a. b. c. d. e. Alex Kotch, "Parler Is Now in the Hands of a Right-Wing Activist Seeking a Radical Rewrite of the Constitution," Exposed by CMD, February 15, 2021, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2021/02/15/parler-is-now-in-the-hands-of-a-right-wing-activist-seeking-a-radical-rewrite-of-the-constitution/.
- 37. "Mark Meckler," All American Speakers, https://www.allamericanspeakers.com/speakers/410611/Mark-Meckler.
- 38. a. b. Fredreka Schouten, "Exclusive: In latest job, Jim DeMint wants to give Tea Party 'a new mission,'" USA Today, June 12, 2017, https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/12/jim-demint-joins-group-that-wants-to-amend-constitution-tea-party/102748540/.
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- 40. Kevin Bohn, "First lawsuit filed against IRS," CNN, May 20, 2013, https://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/20/first-lawsuit-filed-against-irs/.
- 41. Barnini Chakraborty, "Federal appeals court slams IRS in Tea Party case, demands documents," Fox News, March 24, 2016, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/federal-appeals-court-slams-irs-in-tea-party-case-demands-documents.
- 42. Peter Overby, "IRS Apologizes For Aggressive Scrutiny Of Conservative Groups," NPR, October 27, 2017, https://www.npr.org/2017/10/27/560308997/irs-apologizes-for-aggressive-scrutiny-of-conservative-groups.
- 43. First archived version of the Convention of States website, https://web.archive.org/web/20130818194620/http://www.conventionofstates.com/.
- 44. "About," Convention of States Action, https://cosaction-conventionofstates.nationbuilder.com/about.
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- 47. a. b. Emma Roller and David Weigel, "Give Me Amendments or Give Me Death," Slate, December 10, 2013, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2013/12/chris-kapenga-mark-levin-and-article-v-the-secret-campaign-to-pass-conservative-amendments-in-34-states.html.
- 48. David Weigel, "Georgia, Tom Coburn Call for Constitutional Convention," Slate, February 6, 2014, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2014/02/georgia-tom-coburn-call-for-constitutional-convention.html.
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